Sustainable Value Creation Through Business Models

The What, the Who and the How


  • Florian Lüdeke-Freund ESCP Business School Berlin
  • Romana Rauter University of Graz
  • Esben Rahbeck Gjerdum Pedersen Copenhagen Business School
  • Christian Nielsen Aalborg University Business School



Purpose: We discuss traditional assumptions about value creation and confront these with current views
on sustainable value creation (SVC). Against this backdrop, the articles contained in the special issue
‘Sustainable Value Creation Through Business Models’ are introduced, and their contributions to the exploration
of SVC are highlighted.*

Methodology: Assumptions about value creation are summarised and turned into an initial theoretical
framework concerning the what, who and how of value creation. This framework is used to structure and
discuss current views on SVC that have been presented in the sustainable business model (SBM) litterature.

Findings: The proposed framework identifies cornerstones for theorising about SVC in regard to the
what, who and how of value creation. A main finding is that, although value creation and SVC are widely
discussed in the literature, there are huge gaps in terms of the who, what and how of value creation, particularly
in the SBM field.

Research implications and limitations: The major implication is that the SBM discourse still lacks clear
SVC concepts, and closing this gap may enable the creation of a new multi- and interdisciplinary research
programme. A major limitation of this paper is the mainly theoretical and preliminary nature of the presented
discussion and framework.

Originality and value: There is a surprising dearth of definitions and concepts of value creation in both
the traditional business model and SBM research. The originality and value of this paper lie in its potential
to stimulate further research on the theoretical foundations of SVC. Various theoretical propositions
are developed, including notions such as stakeholder-responsive and relational interpretations of value